Activists, HIV positive people want a law on AIDS

February 16th, 2008 - 12:04 am ICT by admin  


New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) People who are HIV positive and activists working for them Friday demanded a separate law to prohibit any social or financial discrimination against those affected by the virus. “A bill prepared by activists, lawyers, Nationals AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and experts is still pending with the central government. Though the health ministry has accepted it, the law ministry has raised some concerns,” said Anand Grover, director of NGO Lawyers Collective (HIV/AIDS Unit).

“We are ready to sit with the law ministry for 12 hours a day for clearing any doubt and thus helping formulate the bill in a proper format,” Grover told reporters.

The bill in its current form has underlined provisions like right to equality, right to autonomy, right to privacy, health, right to safe working environment and right to information for all HIV positive people.

“We want the bill to be tabled in parliament in the upcoming budget session. Once it becomes a law, tens of thousands of people will get justice. We don’t have conducive work environment and there is a lot of stigma attached in our society,” said Naresh Yadav of the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS.

“We have collected over 20,000 signatures from people like me (HIV positive people) and want to request the government to think about us. We want to live with dignity,” he said.

Last year, a HIV positive woman was forced to give birth to a baby outside a hospital as the doctors at the Meerut Medical College in Uttar Pradesh did not attend to the patient. The incident evoked widespread protest from both government authorities and civil society groups.

UNAIDS India representative D. Brown said that HIV positive people have every right to live with dignity and every country should take steps to wipe out discrimination.

Yadav said people affected by HIV face denial and discrimination in public and private institutions, health care settings, employment and educational services on the sole grounds of their health status.

Rights of marginalized groups like sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men are often denied dignity, making them more vulnerable to HIV. In the absence of adequate laws, a statutory HIV law is required in India to protect the rights of these groups, activists demanded.

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